I’ve never been a sit on the sofa and watch the world go by kind of guy 

Long-time supporter James Overton reflects on his latest fitness challenge  


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© UNHCR/Maciej Moskwa

James Overton has never been a ‘sit on the sofa and watch the world go by’ kind of person. Following a 30 mile swim from to Land’s End to the Isles of Scilly in August 2021 among other challenges, James’s latest challenge saw him cover his furthest distance yet. On the 1st of April 2022, James cycled an incredible 116 miles from Sandy Park in Exeter to The Mennaye Field in Penzance to raise money for UK for UNHCR.  

James decided to support UK for UNHCR after reading a Twitter thread that was started by Stephen Fry who was organising a drama-based fundraiser at a theatre in aid of UNHCR. As the months progressed, James found the inspirational story of UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Syrian refugee and Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini, which helped him ‘throw himself behind the agency’. 

‘I continue to support refugees because the situation is getting more personal to me’, James said. 

The challenge also had a deeper meaning for James, who ‘wanted to do something different before turning 40’. Ahead of taking part in the Ride London event in May, he decided to take this opportunity to prepare for the event, stating that ‘my love for rugby and the fact I needed to get ready for the event in May inspired me to cycle between the home of the Exeter Chiefs and the Cornish Pirates.   

Ahead of the challenge, James took on a rigorous training regimen, which included gym work, rowing, and training in the back lanes around Polperro, Cornwall, to keep his baseline fitness high. However, nothing could prepare him for the challenges posed by Dartmoor at night.   

‘My biggest difficulty is the mental barrier of dealing with the darkness when, in all honesty, I should be in bed sleeping rather than cycling, running, walking. My cycle was no different, it was really quite hard dealing with the toughness of Dartmoor while battling the darkness too.’ 

Despite the challenges he faced, James persisted, completing the challenge in 13 hours, smashing his fundraising target in the process. 

Reflecting on the challenge, James said ‘I think it’s the adventurer in me. When I was growing up in South Wales I kept seeing valley ridges and mountain tops, but instead of letting them confine me, I always wanted to know what was on the other side.’

‘I’ve always looked for the next horizon’.

James’s personal hero and first ever High Commissioner for Refugees at the League of Nations (the predecessor of the United Nations), Fridjtof Nansen, was a polar explorer before he came a humanitarian, someone who James ‘constantly looks at for inspiration’.  

Although James has completed his challenge, you can still donate to his JustGiving page to raise more money for people forced to flee. 

To read more inspiring supporter and refugee stories, please click here. 

Do you want to make a real difference and offer a lifeline to refugees? Find out more about how you can fundraise for refugees here 


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